Andrew Fortis always wants to be pitch perfect and his work this summer saw him win the award as ‘best groundsman’ in the Huddersfield Cricket League.
Though Andrew’s name will go on the Tom Walker Trophy for 2021, it’s very much a team effort at Mirfield-based Moorlands, the club that finished runners-up in the Premiership this season.
One club man Andrew, who had to scale back his playing activities this season due to injuries, focused on off-the-field operations making sure the wicket and outfield was produced in first class condition.
Andrew was humbled to win the award and said: “The ground is actually leased from the council, officially it’s a public park, and from where it has come from to where it is now is just unrecognisable.
“We have improved everywhere around the ground so it is now a proper sports facility with proper drainage too. I think the league were impressed when they came for the Sykes Cup and T20 fixtures.
“There are five of us who maintain it and although my name is on the award it’s for all those guys.
“There is my son Braidn who is taking a groundskeeping course at university, Colin Watson and Edit Walker are both club members and Ian Rounding the chairman helps too.
“They have all done a fantastic job and deserve the award. Overall, we’ve had 120 games on the pitch which is a lot.”
Andrew, who has been taking care of the Moorlands pitch for 20 years, has taken advice from his brother Lee who is head groundsman at the Oval.
“My brother gives me all the best tips,” said Andrew. “Lee used to do our pitch at Moorlands in between his university work and playing and so that’s how I got into doing groundsman jobs – and that was nearly 20 years ago.”
Andrew, who has three sons Braidn, 17, Freddie, 12, and seven-year-old Fletcher, started his cricket career as a young boy.
“My introduction to cricket was through my dad, he played for the club which was then Dewsbury Moorlands in the late 1970s/80s,” said Andrew.
“I started playing cricket for Moorlands when I was eight and made the first team at the age of 24.
“My brothers played in the Yorkshire academy but I was never that good. I just played for Moorlands and became club captain at 22 whereas my brothers had left the sport when they were 19. I was captain for a few years then had a few years off before I returned to the role.
“I have played in the first team regularly from the age of 24 right up until 2019. I gave up the captaincy just before the pandemic as I thought it was right for other players to have a go at it.”
Last season the club finished second in the table behind champions Hoylandswaine. However, Moorlands did beat Swaine in both the Sykes Cup and T20 finals to win both trophies.
Despite picking up two cups, Andrew thinks they should have won the league too.
“To be honest we see it as a missed opportunity that we haven’t won all three trophies,” he said. “We have beaten Hoylandswaine three times this season, twice in finals, but we just couldn’t win the league.
“There were games that we slipped up in that we really shouldn’t have and that let us down.
“They haven’t gone full tilt with their budget and so haven’t got lots of great players in and so over the last few seasons we really do feel it’s an opportunity missed not to pick up a league title.
“It was a great day when we won the cup and I think the celebrations showed how much it meant to us all. That’s what being a local cricketer is about, having brilliant days like that.”
Andrew is proud the club continues to bring local lads through the junior system. He is passionate about the club and wants to see it prosper and succeed.
“Last season we had five players in the team that had come right up through the ranks to be first team players. Being a Moorlands lad I am very proud of that fact, because not every club can do it.
“It’s not the ideal that we have a full team of just Moorlands lads because you do get great players from elsewhere.
“However, I do think it’s important we have a nucleus of players from the Moorlands area. This can keep the club based in this community rather than having 11 players from all over the region.
“We are proud of the fact we have a nucleus of locally-born players that get the feel of the club, and we are challenging at the top of the league.
“I will do whatever the club needs me to do, whether it’s running something or playing, I’ll do it. I am very passionate about the club and proud to be involved with it.”
Andrew wants to see the club go one step further next year and win the title.
“We’ll try and improve next season,” he said. “We are very confident in where we are going as a club, and we feel we can be better than Hoylandswaine. We feel 11 good players can be better than 11 individual superstars.
“Our aim is to compete in the upper parts of the league again and win a cup or two like we have this year. We want our second team to be promoted and for them to have a good cup run too.”
On a personal level Andrew would love to keep playing long enough to line up alongside each of his three sons – but that might be some years away yet.
“They are all playing cricket and Freddie is a year away from playing second team cricket,” said Andrew. “Fletcher is showing big signs of doing well in football and cricket.
“The hope and aim is that they all come through and play first team cricket for Moorlands. It would be great to play with all three of my boys before I get too old and fat!
“It’s a dream of mine to play with them all before I retire, it all depends on how good Fletcher gets, if he’s playing second team cricket by the time he turns 13 I might have a chance!”